SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - If you're going to have a night full of milestones, you might as well make a night to remember. And boy, it was a night to remember for the Lewis-Clark State College women's basketball team.
After sophomore guard Kenna Reiter forced overtime on a bucket at the end of regulation, Nikki DePeel scored the final seven LCSC points in overtime as the Warriors knocked off Westminster 79-78 in the championship game of the Frontier Conference Tournament on Monday night.
The win marked the 200th at LCSC for Warrior coach Brian Orr and also made senior Kim Preston the winningest player in LCSC history. Preston has been a part of 109 victories in her four-year career, breaking the mark of 108 held by last year's seniors Katie Hart, Jade Fulbright, and Vanessa West.
The Warriors won their second straight conference tournament title and their third overall under Orr. This one, however, was the first time the Warriors won the tournament title on the opponent's home court.
Oh, and most important, the win gave LCSC an automatic berth to the NAIA national tournament later this month in Jackson, Tenn. It is the Warriors' 13th trip to nationals in the past 14 years.
"We knew we had a game in us to play with these guys," said Orr, whose club fell to Westminster 101-70 and 81-68 during the regular season. "Hey, we played well tonight."
Monday's contest had everything a championship game should have. Westminster, which finished Frontier Conference play undefeated and brought a 18-game win streak into the contest, led 9-2 early, only to see the Warriors rally for a 34-25 halftime lead.
LCSC then led by as much as 12 in the second half, but Westminster rallied and took a 58-56 lead with 6:20 remaining.
The contest then went back and forth before two free throws by senior Kim Preston gave LCSC a 68-67 lead with 1:35 left. After both teams missed shots, Westminster's Alexis Tucker hit two free throws with 33 seconds remaining to put the Griffins ahead by one.
LCSC then missed a shot and had to foul, but Shannon Evans only made one of two attempts with 9.4 seconds left. LCSC's Sadie Short grabbed the rebound on the miss and brought the ball upcourt before she passed to Reiter, who drove to the basket and hit the bucket to tie the game and force overtime.
In the extra five minute period, Reiter copied her game-tying play by driving to the basket and hitting for a 72-70 lead. A few seconds later, Preston became the second Warrior to foul out and McKenzie Jessup responded with two free throws to knot the game at 72 with 3:03 left.
DePeel then answered with two free throws at the 2:50 mark and then hit a huge 3-pointer with two minutes left for a 77-72 lead.
Westminster then chipped away as Evans made the first of two free throws. After she missed her second attempt, Westminster was able to get the rebound and Jessup's bucket with 1:27 left made it 77-75.
After LCSC missed a shot, the two teams exchanged turnovers, but Westminster committed a second turnover, this one with 11 seconds left, to give LCSC the ball. The Warriors got the inbounds pass into DePeel, who was immediately fouled. DePeel made both attempts to make it 79-75.
A 3-pointer by Westminster's Elisa Leader at the buzzer made the final a one-point game.
The Warriors improve to 23-7 on the season while Westminster, which was ranked No. 15 in the country, falls to 26-6. Westminster is expected to receive an at-large berth to the 32-team national tournament. The final poll of the season and the 32-team field will be announced Wednesday and the tournament pairings are expected to come out Thursday.
Preston and Sadie Short, the two seniors for the Warriors, both stepped up big at critical times. The two, who combined for only four points in the Warriors' semifinal win over Rocky Mountain, combined for 36 points, including six 3-pointers in the game.
Preston led the Warriors with 21 points, while Short had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. She also had three assists. DePeel also had a huge night with 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Evans had a double-double for Westminster with 27 points and 10 boards, while Leader added 15 points and eight rebounds. Jessup pumped in 16 points.
For the game, LCSC finished 29-of-59 from the field for 49.2 percent and was 8-of-15 at the 3-point line for 53.3 percent. Westminster was 24-of-66 from the field, 36.4 percent, and 9-of-29 from the field, 31 percent.